Baseball 'exciting and fun again' for Pestano
ANAHEIM -- Vinnie Pestano isn't all the way back to his old self just yet. The 30-year-old sidearm reliever has carved out a niche as a righty specialist in the Angels' bullpen, but he's still searching for that full-inning guy he was with the Indians, the one who compiled a 2.45 ERA in 137 games from 2011-12 and succeeded against righties and lefties.
"He's there," Pestano said. "I feel him. I feel him trying to get out."
Something weird happened after that successful two-year run in Cleveland. The same fastball that used to blow past opposing right-handed hitters started getting fouled off, then it started to get put in play, then it started getting hit hard. The velocity was steadily declining -- from 92.6 mph in 2011 all the way down to 89.8 mph in 2014 -- and the late life was gone.
Pestano posted a 4.05 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP in the first five months of 2013, spent August in the Minor Leagues trying to figure it out and gave up six runs (four earned) on eight hits in his first 2 2/3 innings of '14, a performance that sent him to Triple-A once again.
"Things for certain guys just can't be explained," Pestano said. "Guys throw 99 and it's straight, right down the middle, and it gets hit. I threw 91 and guys would be late on it. I can't explain it. One of the things that was hard when it kind of disappeared was I didn't know what I needed to do to get that back. It was a constant search."
It was countless hours of breaking down video frame by frame. It was throwing drills with a towel instead of a baseball to get a different read on his mechanics. It was fielding grounders at shortstop and throwing to first base "just to find something that felt normal again." And it was getting baseballs flipped to him right in the middle of his delivery "just to feel where I'm comfortable at."
Pestano's fastball finally regained its late life during that ensuing 10-week stint in the Minors last year. He gave up just one run in 10 appearances upon returning to the Majors from June 20 to July 10, excelled in the Minors for another three weeks and was traded to the Angels for pitching prospect Michael Clevinger on Aug. 7.
Pestano finished the 2014 season by giving up one run on five hits in 9 2/3 innings, striking out 13. He notched six straight scoreless outings to start the 2015 season, then got roughed up in a 9-2 loss to the A's on Wednesday night, getting charged with two runs on four hits before recording the final out of the seventh inning.
Pestano said it was "probably up there with the worst outing of my career," but was able to turn the proverbial page quickly.
He knows he's in a different place.
"I'm not going to the yard wondering if the balls going to come out of my hand well, or trying to figure out things mid-inning," Pestano said earlier this season. "If I throw a ball, I'm not going through eight different checkpoints to try to figure out why I threw a ball. It's just a ball again."